One week after Secretary of State John Kerry went on all five Sunday shows, it's now White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough's turn to do the same thing. The goal is still to convince people that the President's plan to strike Syria after a chemical attack killed over 1,400 people is the right thing to do. McDonough acknowledged a lack of irrefutable evidence connecting Assad to the attack during his interviews, but argued what they do know for certain should be enough to implicated him. "Here's what we know," McDonough told CNN's State of the Union host Candy Crowley. "Here's the common-sense test. I'm not going to talk to you about intelligence. Here's the common-sense test. The material was used in the eastern suburbs of Damascus that had been controlled by the opposition for some time. It was delivered by rockets, rockets which we know the Assad regime has and we have no indications that the opposition has." The administration is still having trouble convincing members of the Senate and Congress that a military strike is appropriate, though. McDonough wouldn't give a whip count when asked. "We have been working this now for several days while members are in their states and in their districts, so I think it’s too early to come to any conclusions," he told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace. He also previewed the argument the President is expected to make during his Address to the Nation speech on Tuesday night. McDonough said action in Syria is necessary because of the message it sends to other villains watching the international intrigue. "The answer to that question will be followed closely in Tehran, the -- the answer to that question will be followed closely in Damascus, the answer to that question will be followed, uh, very closely by members of Lebanese Hezbollah," he said to ABC's This Week host George Stephanopoulos. McDonough also said it was "understandable" that there was some resistance to the idea of another war in the U.S. "We've been through 11 or 12 years of sacrifice. And we've learned our lessons from that, and the president has learned our lessons from that," he said on CBS's Face the Nation.
Sen. Rand Paul played down the notion that he would filibuster a potential Syria vote in the Senate during his appearance on Fox News Sunday. Instead, he said he'll force the President to abide by whatever ruling the Senate and Congress approve. "I will insist there is full debate on this and I will insist that I get an amendment and my amendment will say that the vote is binding -- that the president cannot, if we vote him down, decide to go to war anyway," Paul said. "That's the way I interpret the Constitution, and I will insist on at least one vote where we say, 'Hey guys, this is not political show, this is not constitutional theater, this is a binding vote.'" Paul did have strong words for whoever was responsible for the chemical attacks. "When I see the horror of the attacks, my first impulse that is whoever would order that deserves death," the Kentucky Republican said. But that doesn't necessarily mean he's a fan of the President's plan to carry out a "limited" strike. The administration's plan "is not to target [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, not to target regime change and to really be so surgical and so specific that it doesn’t affect the outcome of the war," Paul said. "I don’t think we’re going to do anything to Assad," Paul said.
Two prominent Democrats urged the President to consider alternative options to a military strike in Syria during their appearances Sunday. Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern told State of the Union he doesn't see the President's vote in the House passing. "I don't think the support is there," McGovern said, explaining that Congress "has to deal with" other things. McGovern said that he won't support the President's request for a strike. "Look, I'm a big supporter of Barack Obama," he said. "But sometimes friends can disagree." McGovern blamed an "inability to think outside the box," from the White House when looking for alternatives to a military strike. This echoes comments made by Democratic New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall on NBC's Meet the Press. "I’m very disappointed that the administration has given up – they have given up – on the United Nations and rallying the world," Udall said. "The American people don’t want to be embroiled in a Middle Eastern civil war. We haven’t exhausted all of our political, economic and diplomatic alternatives. That’s where I want to be focusing on." Udall said that there should be a larger effort to gather a global consensus before any action is taken. "We ought to be rallying the world. Because all the world agrees, David, you shouldn’t use chemical weapons," he said. Udall also said it must be made clear to Russia Russia "that they’re complicit in this," for their unwavering support of the Assad regime. "It was a heinous act, it was despicable. My heart is broken when I see that video," Udall said. "But the big question for the Congress right now is what is the most effective way to move forward."
While everyone is focused on Syria, Sen. Ted Cruz doesn't understand why no one is still talking about Benghazi. "One of the problems with all of this focus on Syria is its missing the ball from what we should be focused on, which is the grave threat from radical Islamic terrorism," Cruz said on This Week. "This is the one-year anniversary of the attack on Benghazi. In Benghazi, four Americans were killed - including the first ambassador since 1979." He doesn't understand why we're not focused on the real issue here. "When it happened, the president promised to hunt the wrongdoers down, and yet a few months later, the issue has disappeared," Cruz said. "You don't hear the president mention Benghazi. Now it's a phony scandal." The country isn't paying attention to the right national security interests, according to Cruz. "We ought to be defending U.S. national security and going after radical Islamic terrorists, he said.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.